Rumba by Jean-Claude Ellena and Ron Winnegrad for Balenciaga/Ted Lapidus 1988


Post by Anne-Marie


Got a spare $20 or $30? Spend it on Rumba. Stop reading this review and go do it. Tell them Anne-Marie sent you.

Still here? Want the full story? Well, Rumba is a complicated fragrance to review. Although it was released by Balanciaga in 1988 (or 1989, according to some sources), the rights were later bought by Ted Lapidus and the fragrance is now packaged (identically) under that name. I don’t know when the switch occurred; less than 10 years ago, deducing from various online reviews.

Rumba by Balenciaga/Ted Lapidus 1988

Rumba by Jean-Claude Ellena and Ron Winnegrad

Rumba Ted Lapidus FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured notes:
Bergamot, plum, basil, peach, orange blossom, raspberry, mirabelle
Heart: Honey, jasmine, tuberose, carnation, heliotrope, magnolia, gardenia, lily-of-the-valley, orchid, marigold, rose
Base: Ambergris, vanilla, leather, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, sandalwood, cedar, plum, styrax, oakmoss

I’m reviewing the Lapidus version. The notes are almost identical (mirabelle, ambergris and rose are added). I have not smelled the Balenciaga, so please comment if you have compared them. From reviews, it sounds as if the Lapidus team opened a window to let some fresh air to circulate between the notes. I’m glad of that, because even the Lapidus is one helluva fragrance.

Rumba Balenciaga Ladies_of_Dynasty WikipediaPhoto Stolen Wikipedia

Spraying Rumba is like letting the 1980s out of a bottle. Hop over to Spotify and pull up a 1980s playlist. That. At opening, intensely cooked fruit is modified – very interestingly – by a damp herbal accord (bergamot and basil). The next phase is not so pleasing. I get a harsh and, well, vulgar white flower accord, tuberose in particular, typical of the era. Oakmoss is supposed to be a basenote, but dear God! Here it is already.

Eventually Rumba calms down, and although it’s been fun, I’m glad. I can’t listen to Bonnie Tyler and Def Leppard all night, sorry. Vanilla is NOT a note I love unreservedly but here, unsweetened, it is wonderfully balanced with dry, smoky, leathery notes. So it’s goodbye to the 1980s, and hello to today’s niche/experimental style of fragrance. (And how much of that can you get for under $40?)

Rumba Balenciaga Bee-apis WikiCommonsPhoto Stolen WikiCommons

Rumba is an unsubtle scent; not a morning fragrance at all, really. Apply it in moderation in the afternoon, well before leaving the house, and it will take you into evening and on until the following morning.

Further reading: Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin
FragranceNet has $23/100ml before coupon

I suspect that Rumba is often treated as an historical curiosity, more talked about than worn. Because yes, it was co-developed by Jean-Claude Ellena, famous now for his elusive, delicate etudes for Hermes. But give Rumba some skin time, judge it on its merits, and have fun!

Anne-Marie XXX

13 comments on “Rumba by Jean-Claude Ellena and Ron Winnegrad for Balenciaga/Ted Lapidus 1988

  1. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Welcome Anne-Marie to the APJ family.
    I hope you have a long and happy tenure here.
    Can’t wait for your next piece,
    Portia xx

  2. mals86 says:

    What a review! Very enjoyable.

    I have some of the Balenciaga stuff – a 1-oz bottle, and a partial mini that came in a grab-bag of stuff from ebay. It is… well. Yes, the excess of the 80s* in a bottle. Fruit compote up top, everything but the kitchen sink, big! and loud! Not much vanilla in there, to my nose, but it’s possible that I get distracted by the hot-dust note in the drydown, which is leathery and musky and very comforting. (You know, that hot-dust smell you get when you turn on the electric heat in the house for the first time in autumn, when the temperatures outside are dipping below 45F? Oh wait. If you’re an Aussie, maybe you *don’t* know. 🙂 )

    The whole thing is A Bit Much, but sometimes I crave that drydown, and I’m willing to grit my teeth through the big fruit.

    *I was a teenager in the 80s, and Rumba is not really much like MY 80s, but I was probably sheltered. Rumba is like the 80s my parents warned me about, rather.
    mals86 recently posted…Peonies, and Peony FragrancesMy Profile

    • annemariec says:

      Hi Mals, thanks for stopping by. I certainly do know that hot dust smell, though I don’t get really get it in Rumba. I was a student in the 80s, quite the bluestocking really thanks to my parents, and wore Chanel No 19. Wearing Rumba, I feel like I’m finally catching up with the action!

      And hey it’s -4C outside right now (about 25F). We don’t get snow like you, where I am, though we are a few hours from the ski fields.

      • annemariec says:

        Should add that I got through a lot of YSL Paris, Magie Noire and White Linen as well. People spritzed like there was no tomorrow then.

  3. Azar says:

    Hi Anne-Marie,
    Rumba is a BIG one straight from the days of BIG hair and BIG shoulder pads. I have a really BIG bottle of the Balenciaga version, a relic of the days of post-disco funk . I will never drain this gigantic bottle in three lifetimes, although I do use it once in awhile when I want to revive the BIG vibe or just wake up! I am a “petite” sized person and sometimes I need a shot of of this monster. I rather like the weird herbal/fruity compote and the so synthetic florals that you mention. If experimental is your thing just try layering this with anything powdery…Weird Science!
    Azar xx

    • annemariec says:

      HI Azar
      Rumba smells almost deliberately synthetic – like Gucci Rush also – to match the music of the era. And the clothes, hair and makeup. Remember the amount of ‘product’ that went into creating that look!? Artificiality was celebrated. Interesting eh?

  4. poodle says:

    The bigger the better! Love the 80’s and all it’s big perfumes. Great review.
    I miss big hair.

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Poodle. I miss those times too, even though my own workaday style tends towards simplicity and restraint. (Rumba is a weekend only perfume for me!) I love looking at perfume ads from that era. The Rumba ads are extraordinary!

  5. Melita says:

    Hi Anne-Marie! What a great review – I’m certainly looking forward to tracking this one down to give it a try. Jean-Claude Ellena made a huge 80s fragrance? Who would have believed it?
    Melita recently posted…Art, Carnality & Consumerism: A Conversation With Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù PerfumesMy Profile

    • annemarie says:

      Yup, and, also famously, Van Cleef & Arpels’ First, in 1976. Of course as a young perfumer he had to respond to briefs and compose within the style of the times. So its not that surprising when you think about it.

  6. Laurels says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I’ve been really curious about Rumba–it gets mentioned occasionally, but I never knew if the Balenciaga version or the Lapidus was being referenced, and what if any relationship there was between the two. You have answered all my questions. (I like a big perfume, but not tuberose as a rule, so I’m still not sure I want to buy it blind–maybe a mini?) Anyway, great review, thank you!

  7. annemariec says:

    M<any thanks Laurels, I'm the review was helpful. A mini would be sufficient not just to satisfy your curiosity but last you a while if you do like it. The stuff is so strong that dabbing from a mini would be quite viable and sensible. On the other hand you might find that a mini may cost maybe half that of a FB, so you may as well just go the full bottle!

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